Keep your antibiotics working this winter

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Healthcare professionals across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are encouraging local people to make sure their prescribed antibiotics are working their best this winter.

Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not work on viral infections such as colds and flu, most coughs, sore throats, earache and cases of sinusitis. Viral infections can be treated with a combination of self-care and over the counter medicines and patients should ask their community pharmacist’s advice on treating their symptoms.

Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them might make you feel worse as you may experience side effects such as an upset tummy.

This latest reminder coincides with World Antibiotic Awareness Week which runs from 18 – 24 November. Although antibiotics are a powerful tool to fight certain bacterial infections, over-prescribing and inappropriate use can lead to ‘superbugs’ - strains of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

Worrying trend

Worryingly, antibiotic resistant infections rose by 9% between 2017 and 2018, from 55,812 to 60,788. This means more deaths and more complications for people being treated in hospital. Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations and even chemotherapy all rely on access to antibiotics that work. We all have to tackle this problem before it gets worse.

Even if you’ve never taken antibiotics, by using them inappropriately you could still be contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance and superbugs.

Dr Reema Parwaiz, a Leicestershire GP and clinical prescribing lead for West Leicestershire CCG said: “Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk, and encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. This means that antibiotics may not work when you need them next time. Always take the advice of your doctor, nurse or healthcare professional on antibiotics.

Preparing for winter

“It is very important if you are prescribed antibiotics to take them correctly; the right dose at the right time. You should always complete the course prescribed. Antibiotics should never be saved for future use or for someone else to take. Because you are more likely to get ill during winter months, it is essential that you make sure your medicine cabinet is stocked with your prescribed medications as well as all of the standard items needed for treating common winter ailments. If you have any questions about any of your antibiotic prescriptions, you should visit your local pharmacist. Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals who can answer your questions and give you expert advice”.

If you believe that you have a bacterial infection, you should call NHS 111 or visit your local pharmacist for advice.